Market Liberals on the March

Mario Candeias criticises the coalition partners for their lack of a common project up to now.

On Tuesday the coalition agreement was signed by the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP (liberals). On Wednesday, Olaf Scholz (SPD) was elected Federal Chancellor. But the traffic-light coalition partners have a problem – they have no common project, a project which would bring about a new societal consensus and at the same time offer capital sufficiently new opportunities for profits. The different interests represented in the traffic-light coalition are too contradictory.

At any rate, there will be notably more climate policy than under Angela Merkel. Since none of this can be permitted to overly compromise an economy directed towards growth and profit, Red-Green-Yellow climate protection will remain very moderate and thus antagonise many Green voters.

The same can be said of the social issues. The SPD will carry out key popular reforms such as the raising of the minimum wage, but these will always be limited by the continuing regulations. The so-called citizen’s income (Bürgergeld) is going to come; up to now it has been a mere ideological verbal fog in reaction to Hartz IV, which appears outworn. Freedom from penalisation or more money for the long-term unemployed? Wrong. Higher pension level, rent moratoria, new regulation of labour, citizen’s insurance – central points that the SPD and the Greens want to bring into the negotiations – have been indefinitely deferred.

The FDP hardly has its own issues but instead is acting more as a custodian. The liberals are the actual prohibition party: no speed limit, no tax raises, no renewed welfare state, not too much climate policy, no limits on entrepreneurial freedoms. No, no, and again no. The goals of the SPD and Greens can only to a limited extent be realised with the liberals. And worse still, with the FDP the market liberals within the SPD and the Greens are acquiring greater weight – not only regarding climate policy but especially with old non-sellers like funded pension schemes or increased competition within rail. And a capital offensive in the healthcare system or in housing policy is to be feared.

The new government will only half-heartedly take on the looming social challenges. In contrast to the US, there is no debate over a massive investment programme of ecological conversion and the reconstruction of a social infrastructure. Without suspending the debt brake and especially without redistribution the needed investments to deal with the consequences of the pandemic cannot be financed. There will be a period of more acute redistribution struggles, and in them the proponents of a socio-ecological policy are on the whole being weakened. Now, especially for industrial trade unions there will be a direct point of contact in the Chancellor’s office and as of late also among the Greens. They are using the time-tested channels for a reconstruction occurring within the social-partner routine between corporations and the government. The same goes for parts of the environmental associations and movements which will carry out intensive lobbying of the Greens. Trade unions that profit less from this (social and child-education services, care, education, trade, and the food industry), the precariously employed, but also many white-collar workers in industry along with the more radical sections of the climate movement – they could all be rapidly disappointed by the traffic-light coalition.

If the SPD does not draw up a new ‘Agenda 2030’, it will be conveying, with its chancellor and the key minimum wage reform  as well as two or three more small improvements, that a bird in the hand is worth much more than two in the bush. The Greens will take the most losses in the new government constellation because their electoral clientele is expecting the most. As to the FDP it is unclear whether their role as custodian will suffice to durably secure their support in the event that the CDU is able to play a freer hand.

On the whole, there is considerable room for play here for the only oppositional force to the left of the government if, yes if, it is able to use this opportunity. Although there is nothing automatic in this, it nevertheless has a real possibility of getting back on its feet.

originally published by Neues Deutschland (German)